A couple of weeks back, the Catholic Church sparked an unholy war with single women across the country by declaring the real reason why so many of us are unmarried and alone is because we’re ‘too picky’. Nevermind Australia’s man drought (the ratio of single women to single men, says demographer Bernard Salt, is roughly 16:1) or the fact there are so many dud blokes out there (the ratio of douchebags to decent men is roughly 4:1*). Melbourne’s Fr Tony Kerin says WE’RE the problem. Because OUR standards are set higher than the heavens.
Cue mass hysteria and high heel stomping. ‘Who does this greying, God-fearing, celibate(!) MAN think he is??’ we screamed and ranted and bitterly blogged. Fr Kerin had hit a very raw nerve. And I think that’s because he kinda has a point.
Now we’re smart enough to know he isn’t suggesting women should put up with abusive or abhorrent behaviour from a man just for the sake of being in a relationship. Alcoholics, drug addicts, women beaters, emotional manipulators, cheaters, megalomaniacs, financial leeches and just plain jerks are obviously not worth our time or our tears. But have we become so idealistic about love, romance and finding ‘The One’ that we’re waiting for the perfect man who simply doesn’t exist?
How many of us have broken up with blokes, or backed out of second dates, for superficial and yes, picky reasons? He was too nice, he was too keen, he didn’t know the difference between “your” and ”you’re”, he listened to James Blunt, his laugh was annoying, he dyed his hair, he wore three-quarter denim shorts. Poor buggers never stood a chance. Irks? Yes. Deal-breakers? Maybe not.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine, let’s call her Laura, made up an excuse to leave a dinner date before dessert had even arrived because her good-looking, funny, well-educated male suitor was….pigeon-toed. She cancelled on a date at the last minute with another man who admitted he wore built up shoes. Then, there was the new boyfriend who used her toothbrush the morning after an impromptu sleep over. He barely had time to rinse before she gave him the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line and shoved him the door.
Laura is the first to admit she’s become too choosy. “I know it’s terrible, but I just can’t get past the little things that put me off.” So at 36, what exactly IS she looking for in a man? “Good family, solid morals, great job, financially stable, someone who likes the outdoors, who likes to party but not too hard. They also have to be taller than me (she’s 5’10), have a nice smile and a wicked sense of humour,” she tells me. Not to mention a bloke with his own toothbrush, whose toes on both feet face forward.
Now that’s a pretty specific, and frankly unrealistic, list when it comes to choosing someone who is ‘marriage-material’. Plenty of us aren’t perfect, so why are we demanding something close to Godliness before we’ll even consider a second date with a potential partner? ‘But there’s no SPARK!’, we moan. Shouldn’t the ground shake and the universe cave in when I first clap eyes with The One? Well, this isn’t a Reese Witherspoon movie. Ask anyone who is married, and they’ll tell you that giddy, butterflies-on-crack feeling in your stomach eventually fades. What does last, if you pick the right bloke, is a deep sense of contentment, commitment and friendship. But first – you’ve gotta give them a chance.
My best mate – a fabulous, fast-talking, high-flying career girl – spent the majority of her 20′s, like most of us, dating men who looked excellent on paper. The result was diabolical. When she finally did find love, he came in the form of a fruit-picker, who didn’t have a car or a bank account, who lived out of his tent in country Victoria. Now you’d think these were pretty big red flags. But she vaguely remembered him from high school, and given she’d endured a string of dating disasters, she agreed to give him a go. If it all went horribly pear-shaped, she huffed dryly over the phone, at least she’d have a good story to tell next time I called.
They’d arranged a first date near her house in Melbourne. Would she pick him up? She suggested. Absolutely not! He was adamant neither his lack of mobility, nor the 250 kilometre distance, would not stop him from making an impression on my mate. He took a train, then a bus, before arriving at her front door on foot, four hours later. He’d carried a box of fresh cherries the whole way. Handpicked, just for her.
The following week, their second date, he made the long arduous journey to Melbourne again. This time, he was bearing strawberries. On the third date, he brought prickly pears. They might as well have been diamonds. She was falling. By the fourth date, when he knocked on her door singing ‘I would walk five hundred miles’, she was smitten. Nearly four years later, they’re now planning their wedding.
“Sometimes you just have to take the blinkers off,” she says, “and be a little less judgemental before actually getting to know someone. There are great, wonderful men still out there.”
You’ve just got to have a little faith.
* Statistic sourced from several girlfriends after far too many glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.
Sarah Harris has been a journalist for more than a decade. She currently works as a reporter for the Nine Network and can be found on National Nine News. You can follow her on Twitter here.
So, be honest, have you ever set your own standards too high? And, more importantly, have you ‘lowered’ them to find love?